part 4 in the Product Management Frameworks Series
This refers to the process of emergence of design concepts and includes activities such as problem-finding, decision-making, creative thinking, sketching, designing prototypes, and evaluation. focuses more on the innovation side of product management an introduced the concept of ideation through customer empathy and product development through rapid prototyping.
Design thinking originated with industrial design studies in the 1970s. It was pioneered by industry leaders like Steve Jobs and firms like IDEO.
- Design thinking focuses on creativity and innovation in response to market problems.
- Design thinking doesn’t start with technology in search of a market. Instead, it focuses on the customer.
- Central to design thinking is the concept of observing and empathizing with your customer. Product managers should use their product and observe customers who use their product.
- If you work as a product designer at Asics, you’re probably spending time with fanatic runners.
- If you work at Fit, you probably talk to health fanatics.
- If you work at Intuit’s Mint, you probably spend time talking to young people organizing their finances.
- If you work at NetSuite, you probably spend time talking to Small Businesses who use your product.
- If you work at Splunk, you probably spend time talking to Enterprise IT Security teams.
Today, search any job board for product management jobs, and you’ll see phrases like “must develop a deep empathy for our users”. This is the legacy of Design thinking.
Also key is the concept of Rapid Prototyping. Don’t build something huge before a customer sees it. Better to share the concept or a minimum viable product to understand how customers will use it. Surprising discoveries might happen!
Design Thinking introduced a cyclical process to product development that could respond and adapt to market feedback:
In design thinking, innovators are asked to:
- Empathize with a target market. What problems do they have? Focus first on the intense users, early adopters.
- Define a problem the market has.
- Ideate with customers and co-workers over solutions.
- Prototype a solution. Keep it simple.
- Test with your users.
- Rinse and Repeat until you have a viable product
Design Thinking Strengths
- Great for product innovation
- Customer Centric
- Ideal for products that are sensitive to user needs (as opposed to b2b and tech products that solve complex problems without much influence from the users)
Design Thinking Weaknesses
- Risky: Is your A persona can be likened to a character typology that a product manager creates regarding users of a specific product. Each user group has specific characteristics that set it apart from other groups. a market or just an individual?
- No process for finding product market fit. Your users may love your solution, but can you commercialize it? Is your ‘persona’ a market or just a stereotype?
- Weak on go-to-market and commercialization. How will your great idea make money?
Design Thinking Conclusions
Design thinking was pivotal to re-defining how we approach product innovation. Consumer focused companies place a heavy emphasis on design thinking in their products. Even if you work in a more engineering focused company, any user experience team member will be incorporating these concepts into their approach.
However Design Thinking does not incorporate software development and the process of taking a product to market.
The next great evolution in product management in tech focused on Software Development and Agile Methodologies.
Next: Agile Methodologies
More from this series:
- Intro to Product Management Frameworks
- Brand Management
- Stage Gate Models
- Agile Methodologies
- Go-To-Market Frameworks
- Startup Frameworks
Ross Reynolds works a product manager in brand protection and media. He currently is VP of Product & Marketing for Marketly, a startup in Silicon Valley. He likes building products and helping new ventures grow.